Forged on the street and honed on the stage
Working full time as a street entertainer (at Covent Garden and elsewhere from 1980), I gained valuable experience and the motivation to adapt my act for the stage.
I found a natural affinity with the raucous musicality of legendary six piece busking band Pookiesnackenburger, who invited me to perform in their shows at Edinburgh Festival. This provided the first opportunity to set my original juggling routines to live music, and to perform in a proper theatre show.
In 1982 ‘Mad Pookie II’ with Pookiesnackengurger, myself and ‘unusualist’ JJ Waller was an Edinburgh Festival sell out smash hit at the ‘Hole in the Ground’ Circuit venue. ‘Eureka Bongo!’ the following year sold out The Little Lyceum Theatre for three weeks, winning a special Perrier Award & a season at the Donmar Warehouse in London. This show featured an incredible rubbish-bin bashing finale devised by drummer Luke Cresswell, which he and Steve McNicholas ultimately transformed into the international smash hit stage show Stomp.
JJ Waller and I returned to Edinburgh Festival with our two-man street show for the following few years – until it all got too competitive & overcrowded with street performers.
Cabaret & Variety
Back in London during the early 80’s the so-called ‘Alternative’ cabaret circuit (Jongleurs, Tramshed, Albany Empire, The Tunnel, Cast New Variety etc.) was expanding rapidly, with enough venues and bookings to make a viable living. This was supplemented with various activities: teaching juggling workshops at Pineapple Dance Centre, busking and contract street shows, work as the Court Jester at ‘Medieval’ Banquets. I also devised my own ‘close-up’ & ‘mingling trickster’ technique with a residency at a trendy Chelsea venue and bookings in the Corporate entertainment sector.
This exposure attracted the attention of Music Hall & Variety producers who recognised my act as one of their own, booking me as the ‘Speciality’ in their traditional shows - including the famous ‘ Good Old Days’ stage show which played around the UK & toured Norway, with a season in Oslo. It was an education and an honour for me to meet and work with authentic Music Hall artistes (such as Leonard Sachs, Clive Dunn, Ian Liston, Jacqui Toye, Roy Hudd, Hillie Marshall, Barry Cryer, Barbara Windsor etc.) in beautiful theatres, and with a live band backing me up on stage.
The regular stage work helped consolidate a more sophisticated form of presentation and, with an eye to the international market, I further developed my non-verbal routines and added pre-recorded musical accompaniment to much of the act. This soon paid off with the interest of a German entertainment agency that provided bookings at theatre and street festivals all over Germany, in Switzerland and the Netherlands.
By the late eighties I had also performed in Japan, Israel and Iceland, and had been taken on by the British Tourist Authority as its ‘comedy mascot’ to help promote the UK as a holiday destination. This involved performing my quintessentially English after-dinner cabaret for the travel trade (on tour in Denmark and Finland) and to animate the BTA stand at travel/holiday exhibitions and promotions around Germany, Netherlands, Scandinavia & Iceland.
“Tim Bat is a bowler hatted juggler and comic whom we have just used with great success at the incentive market in Dusseldorf. Some of you may have seen him earlier at the youth workshop in Swansea.
The great strengths of his act for us were:
His bowler hat and city gent umbrella routines identify him straight away as British
There are no language problems since he uses a lot of mime and has some very comical facial expressions.
The act is full of humour, slightly off beat and quickly identified by the audience as typical ‘British Humour’.
In addition to his cabaret, Tim also worked the stand area and the aisles for us very successfully and drew people into our area.
We are now looking at ways of adapting his act a little more so that we can get over the specific messages that we want to give the audience.”
Paul Tracy, British Tourist Authority Marketing Manager (internal memorandum 1987)
During this time I also made numerous television appearances which included The Dave Allen Show, Freddie Starr Show, numerous commercials (including an award winning John Smith’s Bitter advert) and children’s TV shows (including a regular spot on TVAM’s Wide Awake Club).
“You really have a solid professional routine and I especially enjoyed your work with the umbrella (a superb idea that), and with the yoyos. I shall certainly bear you in mind for my future shows and will be happy to recommend you to anybody who comes my way looking for a juggler.”
John Fisher, TV producer
These were exciting formative years, made all the more fulfilling by my marriage and children. I made an early decision to concentrate on short term contracts, eschewing bookings that would keep me away from my young family for more than a couple of weeks at a time, because a career in Show Business is not always conducive to happy family life. I consider myself very fortunate to have managed successfully to combine the two.
All the hard work, practice, dedication and tenacity that it took to get established was well worth the effort; I have been continuously employed as an entertainer, without compromise, throughout the eighties, nineties and now well into the new millennium.